Power outages, downed trees become widespread across SCV amid 80 mph winds

Strong winds whip palm tree fronds and more across the Santa Clarita Valley. Dan Watson/The Signal

After winds began picking up Monday night for what’s been the strongest wind event of the season so far, more Santa Clarita Valley residents woke up without power Tuesday morning.

By 10:30 a.m., SCV Sheriff’s Station officials were reporting traffic lights out on Soledad Canyon Road, between Commuter Way and Langside Avenue, among several other parts of the city.

Multiple downed trees were also reported across the SCV, including a tree that fell on the Santa Clarita Courthouse, two large trees that fell across McBean Parkway, blocking traffic for hours as the roadway was cleared, along with a eucalyptus tree that crashed into a Valencia apartment complex, among many others. No injuries were reported as a result of any of these incidents.

By noon, the winds had knocked down a billboard on Railroad Avenue and 15th Street, with sheriff’s deputies on the scene and traffic going slow through the area, according to city officials.

Crews work to remove a downed tree from the roadway on McBean Parkway on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Dan Watson/The Signal

Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel were then called out to the 26400 block of Oak Highland Drive just after 1 p.m. for reports that a tree had fallen onto a home, according to Supervisor Leslie Lua.

“When our units arrived on scene, they found a one-story, single-family dwelling, with one large pine tree on top of the house,” Lua said. “All occupants were out of the house, and …  they requested building and safety to respond.”

Other outages were also reported across the SCV due to storm conditions not related to the Public Safety Power Shutoffs, with even the Edison office on Rye Canyon Road in Valencia experiencing an outage, according to Ron Gales, senior advisor.

The office’s outage, which began shortly after 3 p.m., and the nearby SCE customers who also lost power, had their power restored less than an hour later, Gales added.

More than 17,800 Los Angeles County residents were without power Tuesday, including residents from Acton across to Newhall and up to Saugus, per Southern California Edison’s outage map.

Estimates for power restoration in some of these areas were not available Tuesday, and were expected to be updated as weather conditions improve. Other areas aren’t expected to be restored until noon Thursday.

A tree fell into the side of an apartment complex on the 25700 block of Hogan Drive in Valencia on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Rick McClure for The Signal

Over the weekend, Edison customers across L.A. County, including many across the SCV, were added to the PSPS map, indicating their power may be shut off in the coming days.

Edison officials said they didn’t have an exact number of SCV residents being monitored, though nearly 67,000 L.A. County customers remained under a PSPS warning Tuesday afternoon.

“While extended outages are possible, we will make every effort to temporarily restore power to affected customers, even for a short period of time, as breaks in the weather conditions permit and it is safe to re-energize,” said Reggie Kumar, a spokesman for Edison. 

Canyon Country residents Ed Nicewicz and RaNae Seaton both said their power was out for approximately six hours Monday before being restored, only to be turned off again in the early morning hours Tuesday. 

For Canyon Country resident Kimarie Chartier, the outage became somewhat of a juggling act, as she worked to keep her dog from howling at the wind while her husband, Mike, was trying to teach his students via cell phone.

“My husband is trying to teach 200 high school students from a phone with no Wi-Fi and unreliable cell service,” Chartier said. “It’s already so hard to teach in this lockdown time, and these kids depend on him, but the power outages keep happening.” 

Recently, Chartier’s daughter made the decision to quit her online job, as it was too difficult to manage with constant outages and unreliable service.

“It’s crazy times,” she added. “How are locked-down people supposed to work from home with no power?”

Crews work to remove a tree that crashed through a brick wall from the roadway near the intersection of Hummingbird Circle and Rainbow Glen Drive on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Dan Watson/The Signal

Over on the border of Canyon Country and Agua Dulce, Jamie Webber also arrived home Tuesday afternoon to find her power out, as she has more than a dozen times since October 2019, when the PSPS began in her area. 

“It’s a big hardship, especially in times like this when we’re expected to stay home,” she said. “Now, we’re staying in homes that are not heated, have no lights or electricity, and in some cases, have no water.”

Webber relies on electricity to pump her well, meaning each outage also leaves her without water.

“When most people don’t have power, they can still flush their toilets, they can still take a shower, but we can’t do that,” she said. 

When the outages became more frequent, she invested in a high-power generator able to run the well pump, but is frustrated she had to do so at her own expense.

“It’s not fair that we have to spend our own money doing this,” she added. “I think Edison should pay for that. If they want to turn off our power, they need to provide us with alternatives.” 

Video submitted by Jeremy Bauer

Both a red flag and high wind warning were in effect for the SCV, with the wind expected until 4 a.m. Wednesday, due to what National Weather Service meteorologists are calling “hurricane-force winds.”

“So far we have seen peak winds of 84 mph near the SCV … with 40-60 mph winds across the valley,” Ryan Kittell, a NWS forecaster, said Tuesday morning. 

These winds should increase through the morning into the afternoon, peaking in the afternoon and evening, with gusts of up to 70 mph, Kittell added.

“Winds that strong do have a history of causing some issues,” he said, adding that tree limbs and poles have the potential to fall, while these winds also create dangerous driving conditions.

A large eucalyptus tree was toppled by the wind around noon near the intersection of Trevino and Player drives in the Valencia Fairways. The tree struck a parked vehicle and blocked the street, but there were no reported injuries. Rick McClure for The Signal

In addition, these strong winds, combined with the dry vegetation, bring an increased risk of wind-driven wildfires and led to Edison’s decision to implement power safety shutoffs in areas they believe are a high fire danger due to weather and surrounding fuel type.

“Be extra careful with anything that could start a fire,” Kittell added, “and if you do live in these fire-prone areas, just be ready to evacuate if a fire were to break out.”

The Los Angeles County Fire Department has deployed additional resources, and also encourages residents in wildfire-prone areas to be prepared in the event of a fire.

Residents who come to a signal that is out are asked to come to a complete stop and proceed with caution, as failure to do so may result in a citation, according to a Nixle released by the Sheriff’s Department.

Also, residents who see downed power lines are asked to report the location immediately and stay clear of the area, per the Nixle.

Edison is scheduled to have a Community Crew Vehicle, with staff present to assist customers during this PSPS, at 20970 Centre Pointe Parkway from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday.

For more information on the PSPS, visit sce.com/wildfire/psps, or for information on fire preparedness tips, visit fire.lacounty.gov/rsg

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